Sunday, October 27, 2013

Market Mystery

A new series, cousin to Grocery Games, in which I chronicle mystery items found at the market and attempt to discern what they are.

Today's market mystery: 

These things. 

These weird, deep red, octopus-shaped things were in the fruit section at our weekly neighborhood Saturday market... are they fruit? flowers? vegetables?  In the heat of the moment I decided they looked like they would be an essential component of the Lord of Darkeness' tablescape in Legend:

Then, the next day, while bopping around Chatuchak, Bangkok's massive weekend market, we saw this drink for sale next to the lime juice and coconut water we were eyeing:

Roselle (with questionable spelling).  

Ah ha, mystery solved!  Roselle is a variety of hibiscus.  The drink, which in Thailand can be hot or cold, is supposed to be good for your cholesterol.  Now we know.  And knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Silk City

I'd read that the outlet is the place to find high quality, but discounted silk fabric.  Yes, please!  The outlet did not disappoint:


The best part about the whole Jim Thompson thing, though, is the interesting back story: 

During WWII, Jim Thompson was an American operative in the OSS (the pre-cursor to the CIA), which brought him to Thailand.  Eventually he left the government and founded the Thai Silk Company, which is credited with rejuvenating Thailand's hand-woven silk industry, which had been floudering in the face of the rise of cheaper, machines-produced textiles. 

But the most interesting part of the Jim Thompson story is his mysterious disappearance in 1967 while on vacation in Malaysia's highlands.  There are lots of conspiracy theories about the cause of his disappearance: Attacked by wild animals while walking in the jungle?  A murder connected to his past in the CIA?  A government hit to silence his vocal criticisms of the Vietnam War?  Jealous business rivals eliminating the competition?  It's like a real-life, unsolved Scooby-Doo episode!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Erawan Shrine

I took these photos back in September before we moved here and forgot to post them, but I'm pretty sure if I took them today they would look pretty similar.


This is the Erawan shrine, located in the Chit Lom area, right at the confluence of Bangkok's many malls.  Tucked in on the street corner amidst the high-end hotels and malls, in the shadow of the raised BTS tracks, this shrine honoring Brahma was built in the '50s to help alleviate problems plaguing the construction of the Erawan Hotel. 

The shrine is very popular- when I walked by mid-morning on a weekday, the shrine area was packed with people, locals and tourists, making offerings: incense, garlands of marigolds and other flowers, food and drink... 

Elephant statues were available for purchase and subsequent offering (the money goes to charity):

 My guidebook tells me that the shrine is an important place of pilgrimage for Thais in need of "material assistance."  For a wish to be granted, one is supposed to come to the shrine at specific times, offering specific items in a specific number (multiples of seven).  If that wish is subsequently granted, one is supposed to return and commission a dance by the dance troupe located next to the shrine.  Perhaps that's what's happening here?:

Here's the view from above, on the raised walkway connecting the BTS stations.  While I was taking this photo at least 5 people walking paused briefly, looked over the railing the shrine and said a quick prayer:

Look how high the flowers are piled!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bangkok Miscellany

Or a motley assortment of potentially interesting Bangkok stuff for you to look at since I cannot seem to come up with a coherent post these days:

From a ride on the MRT (the underground subway, not to be confused with the BTS, the elevated train system, although the BTS has similar signage), a sign indicating that the prime seating by the door is reserved for monks (in addition to the usual priority seating recipients):

 I love the absolutely enormous sweat drop descending from this cartoon guy's brow. That's pretty much how I look all the time in SE Asia, whether I am sticking my hand between train doors or not:

Walking near our house, this is the beginning of data collection to support my theory that you are never out of ear- or eye-shot of someone sweeping in SE Asia:

Some shots from the weekly wet market (giggle if you will, Meghan and Liz, but I swear it's a thing!) right next to our apartment.  It's pretty awesome- super cheap and good quality veggies and fruit, tasty prepared foods, fresh juices, random household goods and tiny clothes.  Sorry for the blurry photos- night pics are hard!  

A shot of the market's Christmas-themed (?) bounce house being erected (photo taken from our balcony):

Here is the roast chicken guy (we wanted the fried chicken guy, but he was sadly absent this week)... most tender chicken I have ever eaten.  The Bangkok version of picking up a rotisserie chicken:

Squid-on-a-stick lady:

The boiled sweet corn-on-the-cob lady... what exactly is that bucket of liquid she dips the corn in before handing it over?  Don't ask, don't tell:

Here are some fun grocery store finds...

Buddhist monk comfort packages... gift baskets for monks containing basic grooming items (razors, nail clippers, soap, etc.) as well as one with incense and matches.   You can buy these and then offer them to the monks as alms:

The refrigerated veggies section has an assortment of flowers... I haven't yet figured out what they're used for.  I saw them at the wet market, too.  Research project!

Rather than (well, in addition to, really) candy and gum, the shelves right by the cash register offers up "Bird's Nest Beverage" (remember bird's nests?), "Essence of Prune," and "Essence of Chicken.":

Tuk-tuk ride home from the grocery store... cousin to Jakarta's bajaj, the tuk-tuks in Bangkok no longer really make the tuk-tuk noise since they are all low-emissions vehicles these days... a pretty quiet ride:

Lincoln says, "Hey girl.":

Swan boats in the local park:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Key to Bangkok

OK, maybe not the key to Bangkok.  Maybe just the key to my apartment: I needed a copy made.  So I ventured out to the local mini-hardware store/streetside key copying dude:

Here is the strip of street food stalls in which the key man is located, for context.  Bananas, grilled meats, little sweet treats, iced coffee and tea, plus keys!:

Today's bonus: photos of the week's crazy rain as seen from our apartment balcony.  First, a day storm:

And a dusk storm approaching: